PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new community partnership will help distribute $5 million worth of capital to underserved borrowers in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, with the goal of creating a resident-led revitalization effort.
Where many see blight in Kensington, the Kensington Lending Partnership sees opportunity.
“Philadelphia has an amazing aging housing stock, right. We need to recapture that, repurpose it, reactivate it,” said Casey O’Donnell, president and CEO of Impact Services. “And there’s an opportunity for people to buy it, fix it up, own it.”
The nonprofit is one of four community lending institutions involved in dispersing a $5 million dollar grant from JPMorgan Chase. Their goal is to redistribute the funding to Kensington residents who can renovate abandoned homes, provide affordable rents and open new businesses.
“There’s very little commercial activity if we don’t have the residents being part of it,” said Luis Mora, CEO of Finanta, another partner in the effort. The group gives microloans to small businesses and consumers to help them build credit. Thanks to the JPMorgan infusion of capital, the group will be loaning $1.5 million to first-time homeowners to help them buy property in Kensington.
“That is just the beginning. We are looking at other sources of funding to leverage those sources of funding,” said Mora, who notes Finanta will help 15 first-time home buyers purchase and renovate a property over the next year. Their goal is to grow that number to 30.
“Gentrification is good when it is diversified, not just for one group,” he said.
“Financing is a big component when buying a distressed property,” said Sergio Giraldo, who went from flipping pizzas to flipping houses. He is the principal of Giraldo Real Estate Group, where he now renovates, sells and rents homes in Kensington at affordable prices.
“People making, you know, $7, $8 an hour, still qualify for one of these properties,” he said.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez says this partnership is purposeful.
“It is a development strategy that provides opportunity and access for all,” she said. “We are working to be an example.”
The partners, which also include the Community First Fund and LISC Philadelphia, will also provide credit and education services to prepare residents for loans.